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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 55: Volero[473 BC]
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Whilst the impression produced by this frightful instance of triumphant crime was still fresh, orders were issued for a levy, and as the tribunes were thoroughly intimidated, the consuls carried it out without any interruption from them. But now the plebeians were more angry at the silence of the tribunes than at the exercise of authority on the part of the consuls. They said that it was all over with their liberty, they had gone back to the old state of things, the tribunitian power was dead and buried with Genucius. Some other method must be thought out and adopted by which they could resist the patricians, and the only possible course was for the commons to defend themselves, as they had no other help. Four-and-twenty lictors attended on the consuls, and these very men were drawn from the plebs. Nothing was more contemptible and feeble than they were, if there were any that would treat them with contempt, but every one imagined them to be great and awful things.
After they had excited one another by these speeches, Volero Publilius appealed, a plebeian, said that he ought not to be made a common soldier after serving as a centurion. The consuls sent a lictor to him. Volero appealed to the tribunes. None came to his assistance, so the consuls ordered him to be stripped and the rods got ready. "I appeal to the people," he said, "since the tribunes would rather see a Roman citizen scourged before their eyes than be murdered in their beds by you." The more excitedly he called out, the more violently did the lictor tear off his toga, to strip him. Then Volero, himself a man of unusual strength, and helped by those to whom he called, drove the lictor off, and amidst the indignant remonstrances of his supporters, retreated into the thickest part of the crowd crying out, "I appeal to the plebs for protection. Help fellow citizens! help fellow soldiers! You have nothing to expect from the tribunes, they themselves need your aid." The men greatly excited got ready as if for battle and a most critical struggle was evidently impending, where no one would show the slightest respect for either public or private rights The consuls tried to check the fury of the storm, but they soon found that there is little safety for authority without strength. The lictors were mobbed, the fasces broken, and the consuls driven from the Forum into the Senate-house, uncertain how far Volero would push his victory. As the tumult was subsiding they ordered the senate to be convened, and when it was assembled they complained of the outrage done to them, the violence of the plebeians, the audacious insolence of Volero. After many violent speeches had been made, the opinion of the older senators prevailed; they disapproved of the intemperance of the plebs being met by angry resentment on the part of the patricians.
Sub hac pessimi exempli uictoria dilectus edicitur, pauentibusque tribunis sine intercessione ulla consules rem peragunt. Tum uero irasci plebs tribunorum magis silentio quam consulum imperio, et dicere actum esse de libertate sua; rursus ad antiqua reditum; cum Genucio una mortuam ac sepultam tribuniciam potestatem. Aliud agendum ac cogitandum quomodo resistatur patribus; id autem unum consilium esse ut se ipsa plebs, quando aliud nihil auxilii habeat, defendat. Quattuor et uiginti lictores apparere consulibus et eos ipsos plebis homines; nihil contemptius neque infirmius, si sint qui contemnant; sibi quemque ea magna atque horrenda facere. His uocibus alii alios cum incitassent, ad Voleronem Publilium de plebe hominem quia, quod ordines duxisset, negaret se militem fieri debere, lictor missus est a consulibus. Volero appellat tribunos. Cum auxilio nemo esset, consules spoliari hominem et uirgas expediri iubent. "Prouoco" inquit, "ad populum" Volero, "quoniam tribuni ciuem Romanum in conspectu suo uirgis caedi malunt quam ipsi in lecto suo a uobis trucidari." Quo ferocius clamitabat, eo infestius circumscindere et spoliare lictor. Tum Volero et praeualens ipse et adiuuantibus aduocatis repulso lictore, ubi indignantium pro se acerrimus erat clamor, eo se in turbam confertissimam recipit clamitans: "prouoco et fidem plebis imploro. Adeste, ciues; adeste, commilitones; nihil est quod expectetis tribunos quibus ipsis uestro auxilio opus est." Concitati homines ueluti ad proelium se expediunt, apparebatque omne discrimen adesse; nihil cuiquam sanctum, non publici fore, non priuati iuris. Huic tantae tempestati cum se consules obtulissent, facile experti sunt parum tutam maiestatem sine uiribus esse. Violatis lictoribus, fascibus fractis, e foro in curiam compelluntur, incerti quatenus Volero exerceret uictoriam. Conticescente deinde tumultu cum in senatum uocari iussissent, queruntur iniurias suas, uim plebis, Voleronis audaciam. Multis ferociter dictis sententiis, uicere seniores quibus ira patrum aduersus temeritatem plebis certari non placuit.